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the presence of the poet who had opened a for their species in the furthest horizon new world for him in the undiscovered riches of benevolent prophecy. If a profounder of his own nature, and its affinities with the thought was sometimes dragged to light in outer universe ; whom he worshipped the the dim circle of Lamb's companions than was more devoutly for the world's scorn; for native to the brighter sphere, it was still a whom he felt the future in the instant, and rare felicity to watch there the union of anticipated the "All hail hereafter !” which elegance with purpose in some leader of the great poet has lived to enjoy! To win party—the delicate, almost fragile grace of him to speak of his own poetry—to hear him illustration in some one, perhaps destined to recite its noblest passages--and to join in his lead advancing multitudes or to withstand brave defiance of the fashion of the age-was their rashness ;-to observe the growth of the solemn pleasure of such a season ; and, of strength in the midst of beauty expanding course, superseded all minor disquisitions. from the sense of the heroic past, as the So, when Coleridge came, argument, wit, famed Basil tree of Boccaccio grew from the humour, criticism were hushed; the pertest, immolated relic beneath it. If the alternasmartest, and the cleverest felt that all were tions in the former oscillated between wider assembled to listen ; and if a card-table had extremes, touching on the wildest farce and been filled, or a dispute begun before he was most earnest tragedy of life ; the rich space excited to continuous speech, his gentle voice, of brilliant comedy which lived ever between undulating in music, soon
them in the latter, was diversified by serious
interests and heroic allusions. Sydney “Suspended whist, and took with ravishment
Smith's wit—not so wild, so grotesque, so The thronging audience."
deep-searching as Lamb's—had even more The conversation which animated each of quickness of intellectual demonstration ; these memorable circles, approximated, in wedded moral and political wisdom to hapessence, much more nearly than might be piest language, with a more rapid perception surmised from the difference in station of the of secret affinities ; was capable of producing principal talkers, and the contrast in physical epigrammatic splendour reflected more perappliances; that of the bowered saloon of manently in the mind, than the fantastic Holland House baving more of earnestness brilliancy of those rich conceits which Lamb and depth, and that of the Temple-attic more stammered out with his painful smile. of airy grace than would be predicated by a Mackintosh might vie with Coleridge in vast superficial observer. The former possessed and various knowledge ; but there the comthe peculiar interest of directly bordering on petition between these great talkers ends, the scene of political conflict-gathering to- and the contrast begins; the contrast begether the most eloquent leaders of the Whig tween facility and inspiration ; between the party, whose repose from energetic action ready access to each ticketed and labelled spoke of the week's conflict, and in whom the compartment of history, science, art, criticism, moment's enjoyment derived a peculiar charm and the genius that fused and renovated all. from the perilous glories of the struggle which But then a younger spirit appeared at Lord the morrow was to renew—when power was Holland's table to redress the balance-not just within reach, or held with a convulsive so poetical as Coleridge, but more lucid-in grasp—like the eager and solemn pleasure of whose vast and joyous memory all the the soldiers' banquet in the pause of victory. mighty past lived and glowed anew; whose The pervading spirit of Lamb's parties was declamations presented, not groups tinged also that of social progress; but it was the with distant light, like those of Coleridge, spirit of the dreamers and thinkers, not of but a series of historical figures in relief, exthe combatants of the world—men who, it hibited in bright succession, as if by dioramic may be, drew their theories from a deeper art there glided before us embossed surfaces range of meditation, and embraced the future of heroic life.* Rogers too, was there--conwith more comprehensive hope—but about necting the literature of the last age with whom the immediate interest of party did not gather ; whose victories were all within ; evenings of Holland House and of its admirable master,
* I take leave to copy the glowing picture of the whose rewards were visions of blessings drawn by this favourite guest bimself, from an article
this, partaking of some of the best character- fluttering expression of graceful trifles, to istics of both-whose first poem sparkled in whisper some deep-toned thought of Ireland's the closing darkness of the last century wrongs and sorrows. "like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear,” and Literature and Art supplied the favourite who was advancing from a youth which had topics to each of these assemblies,—both anticipated memory, to an age of kindness discussed with earnest admiration, but surand hope; and Moore, who paused in the veyed in different aspects. The conversation which adorned the “ Edinburgh Review," just after at Lord Holland's was wont to mirror the Lord Holland's death.
happiest aspects of the living mind; to cele“The time is coming when, perhaps a few old men, brate the latest discoveries in science; to the last survivors of our generation, will in vain seek, echo the quarterly decisions of imperial amidst new streets, and squares, and railway stations, for the site of that dwelling which was in their youth criticism ; to reflect the modest glow of the favourite resort of wits and beauties—of painters and poets-of scholars, philosophers, and statesmen. young reputations ;-all was gay, graceful, They will then remember, with strange tenderness, decisive, as if the pen of Jeffrey could have many objects once familiar to them—the avenue and spoken ; or, if it reverted to old times, it rethe terrace, the busts and the paintings; the carving, the grotesque gilding, and the enigmatical mottoes. joiced in those classical associations which With peculiar fondness, they will recal that venerable are always young. At Lamb's, on the other chamber
, in which all the antique gravity of a college hand, the topics were chiefly sought among library was so singularly blended with all that female grace and wit could devise to embellish a drawing-room. the obscure and remote ; the odd, the quaint, They will recollect, not unmoved, those shelves loaded the fantastic were drawn out from their with the varied learning of many lands and many ages ; those portraits in which were preserved the features of dusty recesses ; nothing could be more the best and wisest Englishmen of two generations. foreign to its embrace than the modern They will recollect how many men who have guided the politics of Europe—who have moved great assemblies
circulating library, even when it teemed with by reason and eloquence—who have put life into bronze the Scotch novels. Whatever the subject was, and canvas, or who have left to posterity things so however, in the more aristocratic, or the written as it shall not willingly let them die were there mixed with all that was loveliest and gayest in humbler sphere, it was always discussed by the society of the most splendid of capitals. They will those best entitled to talk on it; no others remember the singular character which belonged to that had a chance of being heard. This remarkcircle, in which every talent and accomplishment, every art and science, had its place. They will remember how able freedom from bores was produced in the last debate was discussed in one corner, and the last Lamb's circle by the authoritative texture of comedy of Scribe in another; while Wilkie gazed with modest admiration on Reynolds’ Baretti ; while Mackin- its commanding minds ; in Lord Holland's, tosh turned over Thomas Aquinas to verify a quotation ; by the more direct, and more genial inat the Luxemburg, or his ride with Lannes over the fluence of the hostess, which checked that
They will remember, above all, tenacity of subject and opinion which soinethe grace and the kindness, far more admirable than times broke the charm of Lamb's parties by grace-with which the princely hospitality of that ancient mansion was dispensed. They will remember
a duel in the form of a debate.” Perhaps the venerable and benignant countenance, and the beyond any other hostess,-certainly far becordial voice of him who bade them welcome. They yond any host, Lady Holland possessed the ness, of lameness, of confinement, seemed only to make tact of perceiving, and the power of evoking sweeter and sweeter; and that frank politeness, which the various capacities which lurked in every at once relieved all the embarrassment of the youngest and most timid writer or artist, who found himself for part of the brilliant circles over which she the first time among Ambassadors and Earls. They will presided, and restrained each to its appro80 animated, so various, so rich with observation and priate sphere, and portion of the evening. anecdote ; that wit which never gave a wound ; that To enkindle the enthusiasm of an artist on exquisite mimicry which ennobled, instead of degrading; the theme over which he had achieved the that goodness of heart which appeared in every look and accent, and gave additional value to every talent most facile mastery; to set loose the heart of and acquirement. They will remember, too, that he the rustic poet, and imbue his speech with whose name they hold in reverence was not less distin, the freedom of his native hills ; to draw from guished by the inflexible uprightness of his political conduct, than by his loving disposition and his winning the adventurous traveller a breathing picture manners. They will remember that, in the last lines of his most imminent danger ; or to embolden which he traced, be expressed his joy that he had done nothing unworthy of the friend of Fox and Grey; and the bashful soldier to disclose his own share they will have reason to feel similar joy, il
, in looking in the perils and glories of some famous back on many troubled years, they cannot accuse themselves of having done anything unworthy of men who
battle-field ; to encourage the
generous praise were distinguished by the friendship of Lord Holland." of friendship when the speaker and the
field of Austerlitz.
subject reflected interest on each other; or win topics of alliances, and marriages, and profrom an awkward man of science the secret motions; and there was not a hopeful enhistory of a discovery which had astonished gagement, or a happy wedding, or a promothe world ; to conduct these brilliant deve- tion of a friend's son, or a new intellectual lopments to the height of satisfaction, and triumph of any youth with whose name and then to shift the scene by the magic of a history she was familiar, but became an event word, were among her nightly successes. on which she expected and required congraAnd if this extraordinary power over the tulation as on a part of her own fortune. elements of social enjoyment was sometimes Although there was nece
ecessarily a preponderwielded without the entire concealment of ance in her society of the sentiment of its despotism ; if a decisive check sometimes popular progress, which once was cherished rebuked a speaker who might intercept the almost exclusively by the party to whom variegated beauty of Jeffrey's indulgent Lord Holland was united by sacred ties, no criticism, or the jest announced and self- expression of triumph in success, no virurewarded in Sydney Smith's cordial and lence in sudden disappointment, was ever triumphant laugh, the authority was too permitted to wound the most sensitive ears clearly exerted for the evening's prosperity, of her conservative guests. It might be that and too manifestly impelled by an urgent some placid comparison of recent with former consciousness of the value of these golden times, spoke a sense of freedom's peaceful hours which were fleeting within its confines, victory; or that, on the giddy edge of some to sadden the enforced silence with more than great party struggle, the festivities of the a momentary regret. If ever her prohibition evening might take a more serious cast, as
clear, abrupt, and decisive, — indicated news arrived from the scene of contest, and more than a preferable regard for livelier dis- the pleasure might be deepened by the peril; course, it was when a depreciatory tone was but the feeling was always restrained by the adopted towards genius, or goodness, or supremacy given to those permanent solaces honest endeavour, or when some friend, per- for the mind, in the beautiful and the great, sonal or intellectual, was mentioned in which no political changes disturb. Although slighting phrase. Habituated to a generous the death of the noble master of the venerated partisanship, by strong sympathy with a mansion closed its portals for ever on the great political cause, she carried the fidelity exquisite enjoyments to which they had been of her devotion to that cause into her social so generously expanded, the art of conversarelations, and was ever the truest and the tiou lived a little longer in the smaller circle fastest of friends. The tendency, often more which Lady Holland still drew almost daily idle than malicious, to soften down the in- around her; honouring his memory by foltellectual claims of the absent, which so lowing his example, and struggling against insidiously besets literary conversation, and the perpetual sense of unutterable bereaveteaches a superficial insincerity, even to sub-ment, by rendering to literature that honour stantial esteem and regard, and which was and those reliefs, which English aristocracy sometimes insinuated into the conversation has too often denied it; and seeking consoof Lamb's friends, though never into his own, lation in making others proud and happy. found no favour in her presence; and hence That lingering happiness is extinct now; the conversations over which she presided, Lamb's kindred circle-kindred, though so perhaps beyond all that ever flashed with a different—dispersed almost before he died ; kindred splendour, were marked by that in the “ thoughts that wandered through etertegrity of good nature which might admit nity," are no longer expressed in time; the of their exact repetition to every living indi- fancies and conceits, “ gay creatures of the vidual whose merits were discussed, without element” of social delight, " that in the the danger of inflicting pain. Under her colours of the rainbow lived, and played in auspices, not only all critical, but all personal the plighted clouds,"flicker only in the backtalk was tinged with kindness; the strong ward perspective of waning years; and for interest which she took in the happiness of the survivors, I may venture to affirm, no such her friends, shed a peculiar sunniness over the conversation as they have shared in either aspects of life presented by the common circle will ever be theirs again in this world !
Before closing these last Memorials of “ as a public writer," ought to be possessed Charles and Mary Lamb, it may be permitted of the great fact with which George is laden! me to glance separately at some of the Or shall I endeavour to revive the bewildered friends who are grouped around them in look with which, just after he had been anmemory, and who, like them, live only in nounced as one of Lord Stanhope's executors recollection, and in the works they have and residuary legatees, he received Lamb's left behind them.
grave inquiry, “Whether it was true, as GEORGE DYER was one of the first objects commonly reported, that he was to be made of Lamb's youthful reverence, for he had a Lord ?" "O dear no ! Mr. Lamb," reattained the stately rank of Grecian in the sponded he with earnest seriousness, but not venerable school of Christ's Hospital, when without a moment's quivering vanity, “I Charles entered it, a little, timid, affectionate could not think of such a thing ; it is not child; but this boyish respect, once amount- true, I assure you.” “I thought not,” said ing to awe, gave place to a familiar habit of Lamb, “ and I contradict it wherever I go ; loving banter, which, springing from the but the government will not ask your condepths of old regard, approximated to school- sent; they may raise you to the peerage boy roguery, and, now and then, though very without your even knowing it.” “I hope rarely, gleamed on the consciousness of the not, Mr. Lamb; indeed, indeed, I hope not ; ripe scholar. No contrast could be more it would not suit me at all,” responded Dyer, vivid than that presented by the relations of and went his way, musing on the possibility each to the literature they both loved; one of a strange honour descending on his redivining its inmost essences, plucking out luctant brow. Or shall I recall the visible the heart of its mysteries, shedding light on presentment of his bland unconsciousness of its dimmest recesses; the other devoted, evil when his sportive friend taxed it to the with equal assiduity, to its externals. Books, utmost, by suddenly asking what he thought to Dyer, “were a real world, both pure and of the murderer Williams, who, after de good ;” among them he passed, unconscious stroying two families in Ratcliffe Highway, of time, from youth to extreme age, vege- had broken prison by suicide, and whose tating on their dates and forms, and“ trivial body had just before been conveyed, in shock. fond records,” in the learned air of great ing procession, to its cross-road grave! The libraries, or the dusty confusion of his own, desperate attempt to compel the gentle with the least possible apprehension of any optimist to speak ill of a mortal creature human interest vital in their pages, or of any produced no happier success than the answer, spirit of wit or fancy glancing across thein. “Why, I should think, Mr. Lamb, he must His life was an Academic pastoral. Me- have been rather an eccentric character." thinks I see his gaunt, awkward form, set This simplicity of a nature not only unspotted off by trousers too short, like those outgrown by the world, but almost abstracted from it, by a gawky lad, and a rusty coat as much will seem the more remarkable, when it is too large for the wearer, hanging about him known that it was subjected, at the entrance like those garments which the aristocratic of life, to a hard battle with fortune. Dyer Milesian peasantry prefer to the most com- was the son of very poor parents, residing fortable rustic dress ; his long head silvered in an eastern suburb of London, Stepney or over with short yet straggling hair, and his Bethnal-greenward, where he attracted the dark grey eyes glistening with faith and attention of two elderly ladies as a serious wonder, as Lamb satisfies the curiosity child, with an extraordinary love for books. which has gently disturbed his studies as to They obtained for him a presentation to the authorship of the Waverley Novels, by Christ's Hospital, which he entered at seven telling him, in the strictest confidence, that years of age; fought his way through its they are the works of Lord Castlereagh, just sturdy ranks to its head ; and, at nineteen, returned from the Congress of Sovereigns at quitted it for Cambridge, with only an exVienna! Off he runs, with animated stride hibition and his scholarly accomplishments and shambling enthusiasm, nor stops till he to help him. On he went, however, placid, reaches Maida Hill, and breathes his news if not rejoicing, through the difficulties into the startled ear of Leigh Hunt, who, of a life illustrated only by scholarship ;
encountering tremendous labours ; unresting others elicited the wildest denunciations of yet serene ; until at eighty-five he breathed visionary terror. out the most blameless of lives, which began In Mr. Godwin's mind, the faculty of in a struggle to end in a learned dream! abstract reason so predominated over all
Mr. GODWIN, who during the happiest others, as practically to extinguish them ; period of Lamb's weekly parties, was a con- and his taste, akin to this faculty, sought stant assistant at his whist-table, resembled only for its development through the medium Dyer in simplicity of manner and devotion of composition for the press. He had no to letters ; but the simplicity was more imagination, no fancy, no wit, no humour ; superficial, and the devotion more profound or if he possessed any of those faculties, they than the kindred qualities in the guileless were obscured by that of pure reason ; and scholar ; and, instead of forming the entire being wholly devoid of the quick sensibility ! being, only marked the surface of a nature which irritates speech into eloquence, and beneath which extraordinary power lay of the passion for immediate excitement and hidden. As the absence of worldly wisdom applause, which tends to its presentment subjected Dyer to the sportive sallies of before admiring assemblies, he desired no Lamb, so a like deficiency in Godwin ex- other audience than that which he could posed him to the coarser mirth of Mr. Horne silently address, and learned to regard all Tooke, who was sometimes inclined to seek things through a contemplative medium. In relaxation for the iron muscles of his imper- this sense, far more than in the extravagant turbable mind in trying to make a philosopher application of his wildest theories, he levelled look foolish. To a stranger's gaze the author all around him; admitted no greatness but of the “ Political Justice ” and “ Caleb that of literature; and neither desired nor | Williams,” as he appeared in the Temple, revered any triumphs but those of thought. always an object of curiosity except to his If such a reasoning faculty, guided by such a familiars, presented none of those charac- disposition, had been applied to abstract teristics with which fancy had invested the sciences, no effect remarkable beyond that daring speculator and relentless novelist; of rare excellence, would have been produced; nor, when he broke silence, did his language but the apparent anomalies of Mr. Godwin's tend to reconcile the reality with the expec- intellectual history arose from the applicatation. The disproportion of a frame which, tion of his power to the passions, the low of stature, was surmounted by a massive interests, and the hopes of mankind, at a ! head which might befit a presentable giant, time when they enkindled into frightful was rendered almost imperceptible, not by action, and when he calmly worked out his any vivacity of expression, (for his coun- problems among their burning elements with tenance was rarely lighted up by the the “ice-brook's temper," and the severest deep-seated genius within,) but by a logic. And if some extreme conclusions were gracious suavity of manner which many inconsistent with the faith and the duty which ' a fine old English gentleman ” might envy. alone can sustain and regulate our nature, His voice was small; the topics of his there was no small compensation in the ordinary conversation trivial, and discussed severity of the process to which the student with a delicacy and precision which might was impelled, for the slender peril which almost be mistaken for finical; and the pre- might remain lest the results should be sence of the most interesting persons in practically adopted. A system founded on literary society, of which he had enjoyed pure reason, which rejected the impulses of the best, would not prevent him from falling natural affection, the delights of gratitude, after dinner into the most profound sleep. the influences of prejudice, the bondage of This gentle, drowsy, spiritless demeanour, custom, the animation of personal hope ; presents a striking contrast to a reputation which appealed to no passion — which which once filled Europe with its echoes ; suggested no luxury — which excited no but it was, in truth, when rightly under- animosities and which offered no prize for stood, perfectly consistent with those in the observance of its laws, except a partellectual elements which in some raised the ticipation in the expanding glories of progresmost enthusiastic admiration, and from sive humanity, was little calculated to allure